People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Ted Kennedy's Oral History

Our beloved University of Virginia has decided through its Miller Center of Public Affairs to create an oral history regarding Ted Kennedy's life in politics.

Oral History Project Will Chronicle Ted Kennedy's Legacy

By Lolita C. Baldor Associated Press Writer Published: Dec 6, 2004

WASHINGTON (AP) - A few years ago, Sen. Edward Kennedy started taking time at the end of each week to dictate a diary.

Now those recordings, along with dozens of interviews spanning the Massachusetts senator's eight terms in Congress, will form the first oral history project that the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs will compile about a sitting member of Congress. (link)

As far as I'm concerned, the oral history will be incomplete unless the university can include Mary Jo Kopechne's last words as Kennedy's car was sinking into the bay and as Kennedy was running away from the scene of the accident and deciding to tell nobody about her struggling for air until the next day.

Another Crook In The Boardroom

We have news of another corporate executive (allegedly) cooking the books, this time at HealthSouth.

Ex-HealthSouth CFO: Scrushy Demanded Inflated Earnings

By Jay Reeves Associated Press Writer Published: Dec 6, 2004

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - A former HealthSouth Corp. executive expected to be a key government witness at the upcoming trial of fired CEO Richard Scrushy told investigators Scrushy was at the center of a scheme to overstate earnings of the rehabilitation chain.

Scrushy personally told management to bring per-share earnings to $1 in 1999 - double the amount they should have been - and he refused subordinates' requests to end the burgeoning fraud for fear of hurting stock prices, according to a sworn statement unsealed Monday that detailed claims by former HealthSouth chief financial officer William T. Owens.

You read this and wonder how this guy could have risen to the position of CEO at one of America's largest corporations. I've got news for you. This sort of thing is not all that unusual. Whole books have been written on how to exploit gray areas in our Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and the dictates of the Financial Accounting Standards Board.

If you have the stomach for it, go here for an abbreviated list of (alleged) corporate wrongdoers. I've always enjoyed the Phar-mor Drug chain scandal in particular. These guys were mentally deficient.

This Is My Kind of Governor

News out of Connecticut this evening from the AP:

Connecticut Governor Refuses to Delay What Would Be the First Execution in New England Since 1960

By Susan Haigh Associated Press Writer

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Gov. M. Jodi Rell said Monday she will not interfere with plans to put a serial killer to death next month in what would be the first execution in New England since 1960.

"I have no sympathy for Michael Ross," the Republican governor said.
Ross, 45, is on death row for killing four young women in the 1980s and has admitted killing four other women.

He is set to die by lethal injection Jan. 26.

I'm actually ambivalent about the death penalty. I don't have sleepless nights worrying about the souls of departing scumbags like Michael Ross. By the same token, the cost of litigating the hell out of his having been sentenced to death is money better spent. As far as I'm concerned, Ross can suffer in a Turkish prison the rest of his miserable life. Can we deport animals like him to Istanbul? Just a thought.

Anyway, I'm more interested in the governor of the great state of Connecticut. If you read the article, you come away with the conclusion that Gov. M. Jodi Rell is not someone you want to square off with in a mud wrestling pit. She's tough as nails.

The USA could use more leaders like her.

So You Want The Govt To Fix Healthcare...

I am compelled to bring this to you:

In 1994, Tennessee passed what was then a very hot New Democrat idea -- call it government managed care -- a version of the reform the former first lady was also pitching nationwide. TennCare promised the impossible dream of politicians everywhere: Lower health-care costs while covering more of the "uninsured." They got the impossible, all right. After 10 years of mismanagement and lawsuits, TennCare now eats up one-third of the state's entire budget and is growing fast. Governor Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, is preparing to pull the plug and return the state to the less lunatic subsidies of Medicaid.

The TennCare concept was for the state to operate like an HMO, providing health insurance to those who needed it and paying the premiums for those who couldn't afford it. The idea was even sold as a cost savings because it would provide "managed care" (volume discounts, preventative care, etc.). TennCare opened enrollment to hundreds of thousands of people who did not qualify for Medicaid, even to some six-figure earners. Costs quickly exploded, and despite attempts to tighten eligibility rules the program still covers 1.3 million of the state's 5.8 million people.

The skyrocketing costs led previous Governor Don Sundquist, the Republican who had inherited the program, to try to impose a state income tax. His efforts failed, fortunately, but in 2002 Mr. Bredesen was elected promising to cut TennCare's costs.

Prescription drug costs alone increased 23% last year, as there are effectively no limits on the number or types of drugs the system will pay for. If a doctor prescribes aspirin, TennCare pays for it. Ditto for antacids for heartburn and other over-the-counter products. If TennCare denies a claim for a drug or any other type of care, an appeal can be filed for next to nothing. Fighting each appeal costs the state as much as $1,600 in legal fees. With 10,000 appeals filed every month, it's often easier and cheaper to pay a claim, regardless of the merits.

TennCare is now in worse shape than it was a decade ago. Three of the 11 privately run Managed Care Organizations that insured TennCare patients and administered the program have fallen into receivership. Amid the legal wrangling, Blue Cross Blue Shield all but pulled out of the program. Today the state has assumed all the insurance risk and pays most of the premiums.

And the bottom line is this:
Mr. Bredesen has instructed state officials to start thinking about dismantling TennCare.
Read this carefully. You will not realize a reduction in healthcare costs by involving the government in the decision-making process. Ask any Tennessean. Ask former Governor Sundquist.

Hypocrisy & The Washington Post

The Washington Post has decided that we should be concerned about advocacy groups delivering propaganda in the guise of a news publication. And, oddly, they aren't referring to themselves.

Advocacy Groups Blur Media Lines
Some Push Agendas By Producing Movies, Owning Newspapers

By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, Washington Post Staff Writer, Monday, December 6, 2004

The Madison County Record, an Illinois weekly newspaper launched in September that bills itself as the county's legal journal, reports on one subject: the state courts in southern Illinois. A recent front page carried an assortment of stories about lawsuits against businesses. In one, a woman sought $15,000 in damages for breaking her nose at a haunted house. In another, a woman sued a restaurant for $50,000 after she hurt her teeth on a chicken breast.

Nowhere was it reported that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce created the Record as a weapon in its multimillion-dollar campaign against lawyers who file those kinds of suits. (link)

Let me explain this to you. For many years an advocacy group known as the liberal wing of the Democratic party has controlled the dissemination of the news. This had been done through such media as ABC, CBS, NBC, USA Today, and yes, the Washington Post. Their advocacy was directed toward such causes as abortion, gun control, welfare, elimination of the death penalty, and nuclear disarmament.

Now they have competition. And they don't like it. Listen to them whine:
The chamber is one of a growing number of advocacy groups that blur the distinction between legitimate media and propaganda to promote their causes.
I love the chutzpah in that line in particular. Birnbaum continues:
The National Rifle Association, which already has a national radio show, is thinking about buying its own radio stations.
I'm surprised that Mr. Birnbaum brings this up since the facts fly in the face of the argument that he is trying to develop. The NRA has had several "advocacy" publications for many years; those being American Rifleman, American Hunter, and more recently America's First Freedom. And of course, he has to drag out the predictable experts who recite the predictable dire warnings:

Communications scholars cringe at the notion that lobbying groups are obscuring or playing down their participation in publications and programs that push a narrow point of view. "People judge communication by its source so when you deny people full knowledge of that source of information they are losing something important about evaluating the message," said Kathleen Hall Jamison, dean of the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication.

Geneva Overholser of the University of Missouri's journalism school's Washington bureau said anything less than thorough disclosure "is deceitful and imbalanced." Otherwise, she said, citizens "don't have enough information to judge" publications or broadcasts.

These two defenders of the "ancien regime" never seem to complain about the mainstream press pulling similar shenanigans. When a newspaper or network news broadcast cites an "expert" on some subject but somehow forgets to mention that that expert is, in fact, an advocate for a particular cause, the same deceit is being perpetrated. Remember this story from just a few months ago?

Three weeks after he denounced the internet as being "filled with rumors," the embattled CBS anchor [guess which embattled anchor] ran a story on his Tuesday "Evening News" program hoping to stir up fear of an impending military draft.

In a story that was a textbook example of slipshod reporting, CBS reporter Richard Schlesinger used debunked internet hoax emails and an unlabeled interest group member to scare elderly "Evening" viewers into believing that the U.S. government is poised to resume the draft.

At the center of Schlesinger's piece was a woman named Beverly Cocco, a Philadelphia woman who is "sick to my stomach" that her two sons might be drafted. In his report, Schlesinger claimed that Cocco was a Republican and portrayed her as an apolitical (even Republican) mom worried about the future.

Schlesinger did not disclose that Cocco is a chapter president of an advocacy group called People Against the Draft (PAD) which, in addition to opposing any federal proscription, seeks to establish a "peaceful, rational foreign policy" by bringing all U.S. troops out of Iraq. (link)

But this kind of thing somehow doesn't matter in the big scheme of things. That's just part of the way the media have operated for decades, so get used to it...

Well, I have news for all of you. Your monopoly on news dissemination is over. You will, from now on, play a minor role in the process. Weblogs, advocacy groups, internet search engines, and Matt Drudge are going to be the big players in this business from now on. And it will be up to the people who wish to obtain the latest news to know from whence it came.

It's called the new media. Learn it.

On Farm Subsidies

From an article by Sarah F. Cooper in the Washington Times this morning:
When Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns, whom President Bush has just nominated as the next agriculture secretary, takes office, his first order of business should to push for an end to America's drastically distorted farm subsidy programs.

Eliminating U.S. farm subsidies would dramatically reduce government spending, end a program that mostly benefits corporate interests and the wealthy, strengthen U.S. agriculture, give us much needed leverage in international trade negotiations, and allow the United States to extricate itself from embarrassingly undermining its own foreign aid program.
He should. It would. It would. It would. It would. He won't.

In My Next Life...

I always wanted to be an archaeologist. From my earliest memories, I can remember reading about the "Seven Wonders of the World" and about excavations going on in ancient Egypt and at Pompeii and thought how cool it would be to be there digging for buried treasure.

That's why, to this day, I find this sort of thing fascinating:

Find Stirs Sleeping Buddha Talk


BAMIYAN, Afghanistan — French archeologists searching for the colossal Sleeping Buddha in Bamiyan province have uncovered what could be the long-missing statue's foot, raising hopes of a major new discovery from Afghanistan's ancient Buddhist past.

Ever since the fundamentalist Taliban destroyed Bamiyan's 1,500-year-old Standing Buddhas in 2001 because they were "un-Islamic," attention has been focused on the hunt for the much larger Sleeping Buddha, described in the travel diary of the seventh-century Chinese monk Xuan Zang and depicted in cave paintings at the historic site in the Hindu Kush mountains west of Kabul.
Of course I also wanted to have bread on the table. That's why I gave up the idea of shoveling dirt for a career and pursued a business career.

'Alexander' Drops Like a Stone

Oliver Stone's $130 million bomb, "Alexander," dropped to 7th place this last weekend, coming in well behind a movie few people have heard of called "Closer" (6th) and even trailed the cartoon movie, "The SpongBob Squarepants Movie" (5th). Coming in first in overall ticket gross dollars was the Nicholas Cage thriller, "National Treasure." (link)

In its first two weeks, Stone's movie has brought in a considerable $29,650,000 but it's doubtful that his universally panned movie will recoup the cost of production and marketing.

I feel bad for the guy.